I’m convinced that many church going folks don’t have a biblical understanding of sin. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certain that most church going folks would be quick to admit a few of their imperfections. But acknowledging the obvious reality that you are not perfect is a million miles away from a biblical understanding of sin. Here are a few misconceptions I hear and see:
- “The world is bad place.” This is a true statement. However, some church going folks really believe sin is a problem out there somewhere. These people are capable at exposing the sins of others, and they usually do so with great disgust and shock. These people forget that the Bible says sin is a problem for all people (Romans 3:10-18).
- “I have this one issue that’s always a struggle.” Some church going folks are painfully aware that sin is a problem in their life because they repeatedly struggle with a particular sin. However, sometimes these same people talk as if this one sin is the only sin they can’t master. These people are blind to the many “respectable” sins in their life. To listen to them talk, it sounds like they’re just one sin away from sin-less.
- “I’m trying to change.” Certainly change is important when sin is part of your life. The Bible calls this repentance, a change of mind that leads to a change of life (Luke 3:1-14). However, many people who talk about change make the assumption that their sin is merely a matter of word and deed. If they can modify their behavior, they will eradicate sin from their life. These people fail to see that sin is fundamentally a matter of the heart.
- “God knows my heart.” I heard this phrase yesterday from a young man who was trying to justify his sin. He knew there were issues of sin in his life, but for some reason he tried to downplay those issues by assuring me his heart was in the right place. With a smile he said, “God knows my heart.” If you believe the Bible, this should be a terrifying thought. Jeremiah 17:9 says our hearts are wicked and deceitful. If God knows your heart, you should not be comforted in your sin, you should be terrified about your sin.
From a pastoral perspective, I believe a biblical understanding of sin is critically important. When your view of sin falls short (pardon the pun) of the Bible’s view of sin, you’re in for trouble. For one thing, life will be perplexing. You won’t be able to make sense of life. You’ll look for answers in the wrong places. You’ll look for answers that don’t exist. For another thing, life will be frustrating. Expectations matter, and a biblical view of sin gives you realistic expectations as you walk through life. Without this biblical realism, your family and friends and work and health and circumstances will always be disappointing.
Originally published September 17, 2015 on landoncoleman.com.